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Full text of "Dialogue between a radical nonconformist, John, and a Home Ruler, William"

Ireland No II] 



DIALOGTJ 




BETWEEN 



A RADICAL NONCONFORMIST, JOHN 



AND 



A HOME RULER, WILLIAM. 



W. — It's all very well for you to argue, but there are three 
things I find in this question which will make me a Home Euler 
always. 

/.—What are they ? 

W. — Why, first, I can't see why, if the majority in Ireland 
want Home Eule, they shouldn't have it ; then, I think, that if 
we trust the people of England we oughtn't to refuse to trust the 
Irish ; and, lastly, I believe we must do justice to Ireland. 

J. — Well, let's try and go through some of your arguments. 

W. — All right. You won't, though, I suppose, want any argu- 
ments for my first reason, because you, as a Radical, surely 
believe in the right of the majority. 

J". — Certainly I do ; but then it all depends in what area you 
take your majority. If it is throughout the whole kingdom, why 
then its will must, of course, prevail. What I say is this. Don't 
apply your principle in little bits. There is no doubt but that 
the majority of people in the United Kingdom is naturally in 
sympathy with the Protestants of Ireland. Why, then, should 
they withhold that sympathy because the Protestants in Ireland 
are mixed up with a Catholic majority ? See how your principle 
applies if you work it out. I live in a division of an English 
county where there is a large Tory majority, and where the 
village parsons and the Primrose League are not inclined to 
show Eadical Dissenters like me very much consideration, and 
would like, if they had the chance, to do a great deal more to 
keep us in our proper places, as they call it. However, we can 
get on pretty well, because there are plenty of Liberals in the rest 
of England to look after our interests in Parliament. Don't you 



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think we should have a right to complain very bitterly if, instead 
of protecting us in our division, the rest of the Liberals in 
England were to say : u Oh, well, you must remember in North 
Loamshire you are in a minority, and the will of the majority 
must prevail. We are sorry to lose you, but we must part now, 
and we dare say the majority of Tories won't be quite so cruel to 
you as you might expect from their talk." 

PP. — Well, I suppose it would seem rather a shame, and, of 
course, we don't want to apply the principle to anything but 
nations and countries. 

J. — Ah ! is that so ? Then when Home Eule is given to Ireland, 
and Ulster demands Home Bule from Ireland, vou think Ulster 
ought to have it. 

IP". — Yes ; I suppose so. 

J. — But you know the Irish won't do this. They say they 
won't, and they mean it. 

IP. — Stop a minute ; now I come to think of it I believe the 
Irish might reasonably refuse the demand, because Ireland is cwie 
entire island, and that makes a great difference. 

J. — You would, then, as I understand it, only grant lie: 
Eule to an island, and never to a part of it ? 

PP.— Yes; that is it. 

jr — So you would refuse Home Eule to Scotland because i: is 
part of the island called Great Britain : but you would grant it to 
Bute, Anglesca, or the Isle of Wight '.' 

PP.— It's all very well to split hairs, but I Bay, then. I will only 
do it when the place isboUi an island and a count. • in 

race and creed as Ireland is. 

J. — But that is just what it is not. It has two races, two 
nations, two creeds within it, and is not nearly so united in 
population as, say, Scotland is. 

W. — I admit there are some difficulties, and I confess I don't 
quite see how to meet them. However, I really rest on this 
argument which is unanswerable. We trust the people of 
England ; why not trust the people of Ireland ? 

J. — Yes ; we do trust the people of England ; but that seems to 
me no reason why the people of England should trust the Iris-h 
to go alone. We trust them sufficiently, I contend, by allowing 
them to send their representatives to mix with ours ; but I think 
no one who knows the facts will trust them beyond this point. 
You can't entirely trust people who have been brutalised and 
demoralised, as so many of the Irish peasants have been, by tne 
most cruel and disastrous land system that any country was ever 
cursed with- — a system which, though Mr. Gladstone has done 



( 3 ) 

much to remedy it, still remains far from perfect. Then, too, 
think of the difference in political training that the Englishman 
has had. He has learnt those splendid lessons of self-govern- 
ment, self-organisation, self-respect, courage, and independence 
which the Nonconformist Churches, to their eternal credit, have 
taught him. The Irishman instead has been held firm in the 
grip of the Eoman Church, which, whatever we may think of its 
doctrines, certainly renders men less fit to be true and capable 
citizens, and makes them of necessity narrow and intolerant. 

W. — Well, I never said that you could entirely trust the people 
of Ireland ; but, at any rate, we ought to do justice to Ireland. 
That I mean, and that I stick to. 

/. — Now, at last, you and I have got together. I want to see 
justice done to Ireland as much as you. 

W. — No ; you don't, for you won't grant Home Eule. 

J". — But why should you assume that is justice ? I don't think 
it is. I think it the height of injustice. Do you think it justice 
that the Catholic majority should have possession of the educa c - 
tion to the exclusion and the persecution of the Protestant 
minority ? 

W, — You make a terrible fuss about these Protestants, but you 
know they bullied and persecuted the Catholics when they had 
the power. 

J. — I know some of them did ; but, mind you, not the Dissenters 
(who were equally persecuted with the Catholics in old days), 
but the Irish Church, whose domination is now at an end. It was 
very bad of us to allow it, I admit, but the last of this has been 
stopped for fifteen years, and since then the English Government 
has held the balance quite impartially between Catholics and 
Protestants. That's what I call justice. It won't set the old 
persecution right to begin a new one, will it ? To let the Catholics 
have their turn, and to encourage them to take their revenge upon 
their old enemies, does not seem to me much like justice. 

W. — Oh, I dare say the religious question is difficult ; but I 
want justice for Ireland in the widest se»nse. 

J. — So do I. I want to see England act with vigour and justice 
and put a stop to Irish wrongs wherever they can be found. 
For instance, I believe we can find a peaceful solution of the Irish 
land troubles, and one which a Home Eule Parliament will never 
find. You want a strong Government to deal with the land 
system — a Government which will be obeyed by every one. But 
the Irish Government will be miserably weak. It will not be 
obeyed, and when Government is not obeyed you get a state of 
anarchy. Now, anarchy has one certain effect — misery, starva- 
tion, and every form of suffering for those who are weakest. I 
believe Home E ul in Ireland would mean a state of misery for 



( 4 ) 

the peasants which could not be equalled in even the record of 
their sufferings. 

W. — But we should stop anarchy with English soldiers. 

J. — That, I believe, is just what you would not do. I don't think 
you would ever get English or Scotch soldiers to shoot down 
Irish Protestants, fighting as they would be for their lives and 
liberties. I know I would sooner die than do it, and so, I believe, 
would you when it came to the point. No ! I believe there might 
have been some truth about not getting justice for Ireland in the 
old Parliaments of landlords ; but it seems to me treason to Radi- 
cal principles to doubt that in a really democratic Parliament, such 
as, thank God ! we now have, Ireland would not meet with justice 
or perhaps with more than justice — with indulgence. I believe tins 
Parliament can be trusted to answer the appeal for vigour of 
Government in Ireland which Sidney Smith made nearly a 
hundred years ago. The appeal fell unanswered and unheeded 
on the ears of Mr. Percival and his Administration ; but it would 
not remain unanswered now. This is the vigour of Government 
we Radicals will apply to Ireland : " The vigour I love consists 
in finding out wherein subjects are aggrieved, in relieving them, 
in studying the temper and genius of a people, in consulting their 
prejudices, in selecting proper persons to lead and manage them, 
in the laborious, watchful, and difficult task of increasing public 
happiness by allaying each particular discontent.'' 

This Vigour, not HOME RULE, is the Remedy 

for IRISH WRONGS. 



Published by the Liberal Committee for the Maintenance of the 

Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland., 

35, Spring Gardens, S.W.